Friday, June 8, 2012

Faith and Study

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3-17

Competence is vitally important in every field of work, and it is especially true in matters of religion, but competence in religious matters is very different from competence in other areas. Competence in religious matters demands that believers know their faith both as a discipline that must be learned through regular study and through prayer which demands a leap of faith.

St. Bonaventure talked about this in his classic work, The Mind's Journey to God. After exploring philosophy, human reasoning and wisdom, Bonaventure finally acknowledges, after an exhaustive effort, that full knowledge of God and God's love is not something we can know by reason alone, but must accept as a gift. While Bonaventure never abandoned the doing of theology, especially in the Spirit of St. Francis, he also realized that though his mind was a great gift that moved him close to God, only God could give him belief without limitation.

The same is true for St. Paul. Though a learned Rabbi, his own faith in Jesus came as a gift, a light that knocked him to the ground and blinded him. Only when Paul accepted Jesus as the Messiah did the "scales" fall from his eyes, and allow him to use his knowledge of the Torah to lead others to the Lord.

Today, read something to enhance your faith life.

What have been your most important tools for learning more about your religious tradition?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The First Commandment

"You are not far from the reign of God."  Mk 12:34

The scribe in today's gospel, unlike many other leaders in the Jewish community into which Jesus was born, seems very open to listening to the Lord. In fact, after Jesus answers his question about  the first and most important commandment of the law, he repeats Jesus' response almost word for word. Then Jesus says to him and all his listeners: "You are not far from the reign of God."

Knowing what is the first and most important commandment of the law is not enough to become a disciple. If we really accept that loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves is fundamental to the Good News, then we must live these commandments. In fact, to be a disciple means to be transformed by the truth of Jesus' word, and to change our lives to reflect our new conviction.

All of us know that exercising is important for good health, but unless we actually walk vigorously, or swim or workout, knowing that good health depends of exercise does us no good. The same is true for the gospel. If we believe that to be poor in spirit, meek, and hungry for justice is foundational to Jesus' message, then we must act on these beliefs. We must live humbly and do justice. It is that simple.

Today, pick one of the beatitudes (Mt 5) and live it.

What are your biggest obstacles to loving God and neighbor?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


"He is not God of the dead but of the living." Mk 12:27

Today's gospel has the Sadducees, in order to prove there is no resurrection, debating Jesus using the example of a woman whose husband dies and is forced to accept his brother as her husband in order to bear children in her first husband's name. According to the Levirate law, if her husband's brother also dies, the next brother must marry her.  While one might want to defend this practice in a society where women had no rights in order to protect a widow, that the woman has no voice in the process is startling at best and abusive at worst.

Thankfully, Jesus does not let himself be drawn into this controversy, but changes the direction of the debate by reminding his opponents that the after life is not a time or a place about which we know very much, but we do know that ours is a living God who loves us unconditionally. Our belief in the resurrection is simple. God, who loves us beyond measure, must surely want us to live with him forever.

Today, resist silly arguments and meditate on the glory that Christ has promised will be ours forever.

How do you imagine eternal life?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


" Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Mk 12:14

Money is always a problem. Not only do some people have too much, many more have too little, and the ability to mint money as a country that is recognized internationally is critically important for nations wanting to do business with other nations.

At the time of Jesus, while Jews were free to produce their own currency for use within the temple grounds, they were forced to use Roman coins to pay their poll taxes. The rabbis, however, reminded Jews that even to touch a coin with the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be divine was idolatry. Trying to trap Jesus, they trapped themselves. Jesus knew of their prohibition against the possession or use of Roman coins, but also knew they would have some to pay their taxes. Merely by carrying Roman coins for Jesus to look at they condemned themselves as idolaters.

Intriguingly, not having a coin puts everyone on notice that Jesus had no intention of offending the law, the prophets or the interpretations of the rabbis with regard to honoring anyone who claimed divinity. There is only one God, his actions proclaim, and he will not enter silly arguments about whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Rather, he will honor the one God by dying for him.

Today, resist winning an argument, and pray for your opponent.

What helps you resist arguing with others for the sake of your image?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Healthy Spirituality

"Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love." 2 Pt 1:7

The word supplement in today's text from 2 Peter makes me smile. Sounds like Peter runs a spiritual health food store, and maybe he does. Our spiritual health depends on behavior. We must live faith not just talk about, and a life of virtue, learning, self control, endurance, devotion and mutual affection surely will put us on the path to healthy relationships with God and others.

But experience also teaches us that trying to get healthy all at once almost always leads to failure. Going to mass three times in a day but then not again for three weeks does little to bolster our faith. It would be like taking five days worth of vitamins in the hope that we would be fortified for the next five days. In fact, if we do this our body simply eliminates them.

We need to live healthy lives each day in order to be healthy. The same is true for the life of our spirit. We need daily to learn a little something, offer a simple devotion, endure a trial and offer affection to others, especially those who are struggling. Living well each day builds up our strength and our faith. Eventually a day at a time, we grow into strong believers who can  withstand very difficult trials.

Today exercise your faith. 

What are the faith practices that have helped you most over the years?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Holy Trinity

"You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear." Rom 8:14

Fear follows all of us, whether it is onto an airplane or into a marriage. Even if we are sure we are doing God's will, the spirit of slavery, that is isolation, sometimes drives us back into fear, a fear we must renounce and put aside.

The feast of the Holy Trinity tells us God that is "a free communion of persons without domination or deprivation,"(1) into which we are called. There is no isolation in God. God is one and three, so too must we be.  Our identity is in community. Alone we are isolated and left to our own devices to survive and prosper. Together, we hold hands and hearts in hope.

We are never alone. We are always in the God who is a communion of persons, and in and with one another in the Body of Christ.  Woven into one body by the love of God, we celebrate the unity that is ours as God's gift. Each of us by ourselves can be a shining light of God, but together we become a community of hope and life. None of can be the body of Christ by ourselves. It is only the free gift of God's grace that makes us into a tapestry of love.

Today, remember into whom you have been woven as a wonderful sign of God's enduring love.

What have been your most empowering moments of communion with God and others?